It was finally time to leave New Delhi. We had mixed emotions about doing so, we were beyond ready to be moving on with our trip, but we were very apprehensive about returning to those dreaded Indian roads and having to face the awful experience of driving again.
It had been almost five weeks since the latest "worst day of the trip so far" had left us stuck in Delhi with a squashed back door that would not close and a car that was un-drive-able as a result.
Authors note: A forewarning - this is a pretty negative account about India. Unfortunately for us, we had very few enjoyable moments during our time there. Our experience is our own, and this account is formed entirely of my own opinions. Many many people visit India and absolutely fall in love with it. It just wasn't for us.
The sun rising over the Taj Mahal was not quite as I imagined - for a start it is west facing, so the sun was behind us, and the pollution in the sky was so thick, that everything was an dull orange hazy colour. The reflecting pool, a long narrow pond in line with the Taj Mahal was reflecting nothing as it was completely empty. Nonetheless we could still appreciate the magnificence and beauty of the place and we sat on a bench at the far end of the walkway, soaking up the view before walking over and getting a closer look.
The following few blogs about our time in India have been a long time coming - it has been seven weeks since my last update, and nearly four months since these events occurred. This is quite simply because it has taken this long to be ready to write about our time there; the hardest part of the trip so far, and by far the worst experiences in our travelling lives. When deciding to document our travels, we wanted to include the good and the bad rather than paint a perfect picture of our overlanding lifestyle. But when it comes down to actually doing that, its quite difficult! Hopefully I am writing them now, long enough after it all happened that I am able to look back and remember the good experiences as well as the bad. It wasn't all doom and gloom!
Another first for our trip - a visit to a border without actually crossing it. We had come for the infamous closing ceremony. Every evening the crowds gather to watch the closing of the border between India and Pakistan. Walking from the car park to the border felt like walking into the stadium of a premier league football match. People were selling Indian flag hats, Indian flag fans, Indian flag watches and Indian flags themselves. If you didn't want to buy memorabilia with the Indian flag on it, you could have the flag painted on your face instead.
With only a few days before our Pakistan visa expired, it was time to say goodbye. Unfortunately for India, our arrival into the country did not provide a great example of the country or its people. Writing this several weeks later, I'm afraid to say that it set the scene for what was to come.
Arriving back at the home-stay, we'd had a brilliant day. Yet another highlight to add to our ever growing list, and yet another amazing experience in Pakistan.
It was early afternoon by the time we set off for Skardu. At just under 2500 metres, the city is the gateway to the 'eight-thousander' peaks - K2, the Gasherbrums, Broad Peak, and the Trango Towers. Busy, and touristy, it is a popular starting point for multiple mountain treks. We did not have enough time left in Pakistan for a trek, but wanted to drive there (and then back to Gilgit via Deosai National Park) purely to enjoy the journey and the scenery.